114: Dave Asprey: Leading with love (transcript)

January 7, 2019 by Dani Mihaleva
in Podcast

Dave Asprey

If you’re like me, you’ve heard of Bulletproof Coffee. I don’t drink coffee so I didn’t really think much of it. Not drinking coffee since I’ve heard about it so much. Actually, I hear a lot about people losing weight with it. People say they have lots of energy with it. Still I figured it must be some guy who’s really good at internet marketing behind it. I’d heard Dave Asprey’s name but didn’t really think much about it but when I heard that he was speaking at the coworking space where I was hosting one of my famous no-packaging vegetable stew dinner/sustainability events and I said I’d go to learn more. I was surprised at what I found. First, I’ve been to several events at the place and it was packed like I’ve never seen it packed before. Second, everyone there was rapt with attention. They were really hanging on his every word. And third, he wasn’t trying to do anything special, he wasn’t putting on a show or entertaining people. He was just simply sharing, well, from his book and from his life and from the things that he did. Now he does things like Nootropics which is supplements. Look him up to find out what he does. I was really there for the leadership aspect. Fourth, a lot of people stayed for a long time after he finished speaking. Then he went and people could buy the book and be photographed with him. And then after that I think people were staying for a good hour after that. I mean I left before then and as long as I was there people were still there. Having come not really knowing what to expect but seeing the rapt attention, the full room, the people staying so long, I thought there’s a lot of people out there who call themselves leaders or that we call leaders, politicians say, that don’t really have many followers. Maybe they use authority. I wouldn’t really call them so much leaders, even though other people do. There are other people who lead pretty effectively, they kind of get the job done. Dave Asprey, on the other hand, his followers would take medicines that were untested. He would do things and people would follow ingesting things into their bodies whatever the reasons are they’re doing it because they want to. And I saw great leadership there and I was very interested in learning more. That’s leadership at another level than most of what we see out there.

So hustler that I am I spoke to a bunch of people there who are organizers and got to meet them, got to meet him. They got me advanced notice of his book. If you look at my Inc. column, you’ll see that I reviewed his book there and talked a little bit about what I just said now. So this interview that you’re about to hear was actually an interview for me to interview him about his book and about his leadership style for Inc. But I found it so relevant to leadership that I wanted to make it available to everybody here. So this is me and Dave Asprey talking about leadership and his leadership style him not knowing that I would one day come back to him and say, “Would you mind if I post this on my podcast because I think it’s valuable for people who are interested in leadership?’ So here’s me and Dave Asprey.


Joshua: What I write about leadership and I try to make it more available to people to enable them to improve their leadership. And I think a lot of people cover you about like experimenting with stuff but I what I saw leadership there and if it’s OK with you, that’s what I’d like to ask you about.

Dave: I would be very happy to talk about that.

Joshua: OK. And I was just reading the book. There are a bunch of names of people that I’ve worked with and talked to like Neil Strauss and like [unintelligible], Tim Ferris and I [unintelligible[ with Neil in North Korea. So it was kind of cool to keep a running tally of mutual friends. Anyway. What I know is that on a scaled leadership there are some leaders who are just ineffective. They maybe have authority and people might call them leaders but they’re not really… I think a lot of them are not leaders and some are effective and they’ll get loyalty, they’ll get followership. But where we do see not just like for you to have a room full of rapt attention but you’re leading them in a process of experimenting on themselves like ingesting things into their body and doing things that are experimental. That’s leadership to me on a whole other level. And I don’t know if it is a simple question to answer but is this something that you intended to achieve? Do you know how you achieved it? Is it something that you can share how you achieved that?

Dave: I think I know how I achieve that. And it doesn’t make it into the Internet marketing world of things. It’s that if you want people to really follow you and engage, it’s not about metrics and it’s not about having a blog or something like that. It’s about actually getting on an airplane and flying to New York and standing in front of a room of people and showing up authentically having something new and of value to the audience to say and then doing it again and again and again. And I mean I travel 150 days a year and I have since the founding of the company and there is no substitute for face time. And if you want to connect with a community, you want to create a new community around biohacking the way that I did, you have to be very conscious of the way you show up. And I do the Bulletproof Conference, it’s not a biohacking conference, [unintelligible]. I think I probably hugged every single one of the 250 or so attendees and you saw me and you got to be there. You got to realize that, you have to have the energy to do that and in order to have the energy your biology has to be working but also you have to have a mission. You have to have a reason for doing it because if the reason to do it is to make money or for the ego of having power or fame or something like that, you will just get exhausted and you will hit the [unintelligible]. And that’s not why I do what I do. I have no need or desire to be famous. I just don’t want people to go through all the crap that I went through. No one said all of this stuff when I was 20 in a way that I could find it or in a way that I could see. And I thought maybe if I do that, it will help a few people and it helps more than a few people. And that’s what motivates me is I think we’re wired to be nice to each other but it doesn’t work if all this other stuff is in the way. So how do we go about things [unintelligible] and the other stuff and giving people the tools? Because I like it better when the people around me feel good. It’s the authenticity and the integrity and always speaking the truth and not dumping on other people, not playing the same troll game.

A lot of online people make that mistake too. They say, “Oh, I’m in a play that take on a strategy, I am going to polarize people and create an enemy so I can have a tribe.” It all works but you know you have to look at the world you’re creating when you do that. It doesn’t actually work as well as you think it might even if you get to follow.

Joshua: It sounds that when you do it, there is fun to it. There’s a couple of questions and I hope you can answer that. One was could you always do this or did you learn to do it? The other is I mean all that flying, all that hugging, that energy… I felt that you hinted at where it came from and I’m curious if it’s something deeper than just you know you want to make available what wasn’t available for you in your 20s. So could you always do this or is it something you learned?

Dave: I used to have Asperger’s Syndrome. I was a computer engineer from Silicon Valley. I was so angry I wouldn’t make eye contact with people like I used to have like OCD and ODD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder. So I still have some of that but in a good way. I don’t do dumb things. I oppose them. So no, I couldn’t do this. I didn’t have leadership skills. In fact, I lacked leadership skills. What made the difference for me is I identified early in my career in Silicon Valley that I didn’t have the skills. I didn’t recognize that I was pretty much anxious and angry all the time because that was my normal state. And I started studying how business interactions worked, how deals were done, I got mentors in the companies where I worked. And I [unintelligible] anthropologist because I had the Asperger’s brain going on back then because I hadn’t fixed my biology.

So I’d go to business networking meetings and just watch how people interacted the way like a culture anthropologist would look at things until I could understand it and do it. Then I said I know how to do this. So I became a teacher at the University of California and within a year or two I ran the program to teach working engineers how to build the modern internet. I did that for five years, four nights a week, three hours a night. And I became very good at reading a classroom full of people and I signed up at work and I said, “Hey, let me be the guide and do the speeches no one wants to.” and soon I was giving keynote presentations. I don’t remember the first one I got because I was too afraid. That was probably around 1995-96. I was working for 3Com.


Dave: But it was a focused effort to build the ability and soon I became in charge of global evangelism for the company where you had to know what you were talking about in so much depth so anything that you say is true and any question from the audience you can handle it on your feet and you can handle a question from a Wall Street bankers saying, “[unintelligible] go out of business.” You could have a question from an angry customer or from an engineer trying to prove his worth or her worth by discrediting you on stage and be able to handle it and be cool and not just act cool but actually be cool. And it’s that inner peace that’s what made it easier for me and that all came about from neurofeedback, personal development, meditating in Tibet, the 40 years of Zen stuff and that’s why I have so much energy because I manage my mitochondria with the Bulletproof stuff and because I got rid of all that internal friction that used to slow me down. So what I’m doing is relatively effortless in that it gives me joy, it gives me energy, I can make energy from food and air better than most humans and I know what I am doing. And every time I succeed probably someone’s life is better. That’s a much easier job than standing out and forcing yourself to do it, if that makes sense.

Joshua: I’m hearing that you may be burning a lot of calories but you’re prepared to do it. You know how to do it and it’s coming, the energy to do it, not the calorie energy but the mental energy and the body energy it’s coming from inside and so it sustains you, if I read you right.

Dave: That comes from love. Nowhere else.

Joshua: Love, that’s [unintelligible] a word. I mean you talk about gratitude and how helping others is [unintelligible] state.

Dave: It’s love for people, it’s love for the world we live in, it’s love for humanity. I truly fundamentally believe we are wired… In fact, I can tell you where the wiring comes from based on mitochondrial network decision making that we are fundamentally wired to be kind to each other and to be supportive of each other if other conditions are met. And I am actively doing everything I know how to do to build a world where those conditions are met so that we can express our natural kindness to each other and build communities and do good things that both support the planet and each other. This is the fastest and most powerful way I know to do it and if I find a faster way, I’ll do that too.

Joshua: Yeah, it feels like that’s a big thing like if you can find a faster way, if you can safe 10 minutes, safe 10 minutes. Why wouldn’t you?

Dave: Exactly.


Joshua: You didn’t say this but I think I heard you didn’t have any advantage anyone else didn’t. I mean you started overweight and socially not so attuned and anyone can do what you did, I think. Is that right?

Dave: If I can do this biologically…I came out the worst possible beginnings. I think every bad thing, not everyone, but the long list of things that happen to most people when they’re 70 hit me before I was 30. So if I can be at nine point six percent body fat which is what my scale told me this morning and have the amount of energy I have with my six hours and five minutes of sleep, I’m pretty sure that if you didn’t have other immunity and obesity and all those other things when you were young, that you probably would be ahead of me if you were doing the stuff that I was doing. That said I’m pretty smart. At least I’d like to think so. I come from a family of engineers so my IQ was already pretty good and I did few things that raised my IQ. So I have some smarts in there that help me do it but the energy and the biological performance those things are from biohacking.

Joshua: That’s something I want to bring to people, this is just me on a personal note, that the person who achieves stuff the more that they say this stuff is available to anyone else, I’m trying to bring that out to people so I’m glad that you said that. The book is very comprehensive and very detailed and so I was reading it, I was thinking, “Is this for someone to jump start something in the short term? Is it like a multiple year project? Or is it a lifetime thing?” Because I tend to think it’s more a lifetime but then some stuff is like cutting edge research which may be reversed or you know these things change in time so I’m not sure how…How do you envision people using the book?

Dave: Well, most people want to be better at whatever it is that they care about and most people at any time in life but quite often when you’re younger you have these lofty visions of what you could do, what life could be like, what you really want and what your dream is, what’s on your bucket list. But I want help doing this. I don’t know what to do so I’m going to maybe go look at what one successful person did and I’m going to copy that and you do it and you don’t get results and then you feel like a failure. And I’ve certainly done that lots of time. I can’t tell you how many, probably three years I wasted on the getting-things-done methodology where you have to have an [unintelligible] box or you’re feeling secure about yourself, about idea. So I did that because it worked for a successful person. And what I do in all these books if I want to know something really well, I either teach it or write a book about it. Those are the only ways to crystallize that knowledge in my head so I can talk about it in as much details I want so I want to be better at everything I do. That’s why I’ve asked 500 experts how to be better at everything they do. And instead of trying to do all 500 of them which would make your head explode, I analyzed the data and I created an order of operations.

So the deal is you may read Game Changers. And you know what? I get it. These two laws resonate with me. I’m going to do those first and then maybe you aren’t. Or you may say, “I’m going to read it now and then I am going to read it again later.” But the idea is if you do something from each of the big three categories – smarter, faster, happier, it is going to provide you with a meaningful improvement in how you perform and all that extra energy is free and then you can use that energy to do another law if you want to and some law is, “That was not for me.” That’s awesome but that’s why there’s a choice. At the end of every law there’s a little worksheet where you can literally in 30 seconds say, “I’m going to answer this” but only answer it if it really makes you pause and think, “You know what? There’s merit in this rule for my life.” [unintelligible] doesn’t apply.

So I’m hoping people go there and find just a couple things that are radically transformative for them for where they are right now. And of course, they’re going to come back and they’re going to look at Law number three where you know I’m talking about conversations with Jack Canfield and it’s about the words matter and how to choose those. That is a daily practice that I practice with my kids and I’ll practice daily for the rest of my life. And hearing it not just from me but from luminaries in the field maybe every single day from now on a person to read that book is going to stop saying “can’t” and “need” and all these other words that are lies to themselves that inhibit their ability to think about the world and to perform at their level. And maybe they’ll believe it because they heard it from people who are least as credible as I am, if not more.

Third law, that might stick with you forever and you don’t have to do anything but just change how you think. Others you go out and you do a specific thing like I’ve decided I want to get outside my head for the first time in my life. I’m going to go on a vision quest. I’m going to go do the [unintelligible]. I’m going to go to Burning Man. It’s a one-time thing. You check it off. I did that. Or I’m going to try smart drugs for the first time. I’m going to pay attention about what I eat. I never thought about what I eat whether it makes me a good human being or not but seems the happiest people in the book said the food mattered a lot for how they perform. Maybe now I have the motivation to not eat the potato chips and to choose something that’s a better choice. That’s the idea and it’ll change your thinking even if you don’t do what’s in it.

Joshua: So I want to follow up on what you said. I was emailing someone not half an hour ago and they were either podcast and they were asking someone, a PR person, promoting someone and they [unintelligible] and I started writing them and I can’t do it. I went back [unintelligible] having just read the book and I didn’t mentor, but I said, ”Look, it doesn’t fit with what I do.” I didn’t say I didn’t want to do it but I didn’t say I “can’t”. I took that out.

Dave: Did it feel different?

Joshua: Yes, more honest. I was thinking about [unintelligible]. I mean in my book I give people exercises to not use words good, bad, right and wrong so that I’ve mostly avoided but also good, like judgment voice and [unintelligible] days and I actually started looking up. I don’t know how to pronounce them – piracetam, modafinil, and so I started looking them up. I don’t think I’m that good yet but I’m…

Dave: You’re thinking about it.

Joshua: Yeah, it reminds me that I have friends who biohack who told me about them and I just kind of didn’t think about it for a long time. I was with a friend a couple of weeks ago who was [unintelligible] JUUL and I was like, “Oh, I remember talking about nicotine and [unintelligible] is the best way to get it but maybe I should try it. And you got to think about these things.

Dave: [unintelligible] the thinking that you’re doing now you nailed it exactly. If it makes you just think a little bit more is there a different way to do what I’m doing now that’s going to get me more, that would be the ultimate [unintelligible] for this book and it’s already having a few of its intended effects on you.

Joshua: One last question. I mean I’m happy to keep going but I think we are over time already. Game Changers…At first, I thought Game Changers meant a reference to things to do. But then I saw the stories and I think it probably is about [unintelligible] but does Game Changers refer to people? Does it refer to things you can do to change your game? Both or more?

Dave: You nailed it the first time. The people who I’ve interviewed on the show are consciously people who change the game in their field, people who have done noteworthy things so they are game changers. But the advice that came out of this all those laws those are game changers for you and you’ll find that most of the things I write and talk about the underlying theme is what’s in it for you and most people are going to interpret this, “These are game changers for me.” but I hope when they turn the pages though recognize that when they hear guys like Bill Harris and Arianna Huffington and Andy Bill Sears and you know just all of these people who have done big things like that is not just getting advice, this is distilled advice from lots of people who’ve done stuff that’s worth paying attention to, so it’s both.

Joshua: Glad to hear. I’d love to keep going and if there’s a time to reschedule for a longer conversation I’ll be happy to but I [unintelligible] and will let you go.

Dave: Thank you so much. I’d be happy to answer some questions. I email to if that’s going to [unintelligible].

Joshua: Hopefully you can and then hopefully see wee again sometime soon too.

Dave: Perfect. Looking forward to it.

Joshua: Same here. Bye.

Dave: Thanks.


Again, that conversation was from my Inc. article so he was not trying to talk to the microphone. I hope to bring him back for another episode and talk to him about the environment and see if he’s willing to commit to acting on some environmental value. But in the meantime, his method is sticking with his values and growing organically. Looks like a pretty good model to me. It’s what I’ve tried to do and what I want to keep doing. He’s passionate and I saw that passion in the room at Assemblage. So I hope you picked up as much from him as I did.

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